Hollywood Demands Film Costumes

Times Staff Writer

Fred Astaire’s shoes are finally out of jail.

The question is, who will gain permanent custody of them?

The Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks says that the late hoofer’s footwear--and more than 200 other pieces of Hollywood costumes--should remain housed in a downtown fashion college-museum, where they have been on loan for the last two weeks.

Hollywood-area City Councilman Michael Woo and several film celebrities say the duds--which were stored in the old Lincoln Heights Jail for 20 years--should go to Hollywood Heritage, a preservationist organization.


Woo, actors Debbie Reynolds, Glenn Ford and June Haver and Astaire’s widow, Robin, spoke out in favor of Hollywood Heritage at a press conference Monday at the Hollywood Studio Museum.

“Hollywood history should stay in Hollywood, at a Hollywood museum,” said Reynolds, 56.

She spoke under lighting augmented by antique 20th Century-Fox klieg lights in the renovated barn once used by the legendary director Cecil B. DeMille.

Ford, 72, declared that some actors are wary of donating their memorabilia to the city, fearing “they’ll end up in Bekins storage, or the Lincoln Heights Jail.”

“Fashion is fashion, but film is film,” declared June Haver, wife of actor Fred MacMurray.

Woo said he would try to persuade his colleagues to overrule the decision by Recreation and Parks.

Linda Barth, an administrator for the city agency, defended the choice of the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising as the new home for the garments. She said the institute was chosen on the basis of such criteria as “security--including protection environmentally--financial ability, and the type and number of conservators.”

However, she voiced the hope Monday that Recreation and Parks could draw up a contract with the Fashion Institute and Woo’s office that would allow Hollywood Heritage to display some of the items in the Hollywood Studio Museum.

The garments originally were part of a larger collection owned by Hollywood Museum Associates, which sought to establish a museum in Hollywood. But the effort fell through for financial reasons and in 1966 the collection was sold to the city for $22,000, the amount of the group’s debt.

After storage in a Bekins building became too expensive, the city sent the items to the vacated Lincoln Heights Jail.

Most have since been loaned out, indefinitely, to USC, UCLA, the American Film Institute and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

But more than 200 garments remained behind bars, including outfits worn by Norma Shearer (in “Idiot’s Delight”), Greta Garbo (“Inspiration”), Charles Laughton and Kirk Douglas (“Spartacus”), and 27 pairs of Astaire’s shoes, as well as one of the dancer’s top hats.

Hollywood Heritage points out that the 1968 contract under which the collection was turned over to the city stipulated that it would return to Hollywood “when housing finally becomes available” in that community.

The 5-year-old Hollywood Studio Museum, across from the Hollywood Bowl, houses a screening room, a reproduction of De Mille’s office, a pictorial gallery and movie memorabilia. However, the city considers the museum too small, at present, to qualify as that housing.

“What was envisioned was (a Hollywood museum with) research libraries, student rooms for studying, theaters for educational purposes, research facilities, sound stages,” Barth said.

Reynolds, meanwhile, vowed to push for a full-fledged Hollywood museum “until the day I drop dead. Hopefully, by then, it’ll be built.”